Emerge Independence Interviews: Tayler Landry
In honor of Emerge Juice’s Independence Week, Mel had the brilliant idea to feature a couple of interviews with local small business owners to learn about their personal journeys of seeking independence and freedom. What caused you to emerge from where you were, to where you are now?
Tayler Landry founded Evolve Studio in 2015 with her friend and now business partner, Rachel Crockett. Today, they own and operate two fitness studios in Mandeville and Baton Rouge. Tayler is motivated to share her love for health, fitness, and wellness through her business because she’s experienced the woes of impersonal health plans. Her personal definition of freedom is, “waking up and truly owning and loving who you are each and every day … [and] being okay with sharing that love with the world.” After a career in investment management, Tayler decided to do just that.
I asked Tayler about the changes which led to Evolve Studios, “Ultimately, I think what pushed me to go through with it all was being in a career where it did start to feel like work every day … my mind started to change to, ‘Wow, what if I could just do this all the time?’ and ‘What if I could help people more?’ and ‘What if I could do this every day and truly change people's lives?’. I think that's part of the driving force that pushed me to say, ‘It's now or never, and it's not gonna be never, so it's now.’”
Tayler uses knowledge to refute the fear of moving forward. She implores, “...educate yourself … Know and understand where you fall short and what you're not great at, and be okay with it. Don’t be afraid of learning and educating yourself further in areas that would benefit you”.
She continues, “There's something in my finance days that we called the ‘risk-reward profile’, where the higher the risk, the higher the reward. Of course, there's a balance in that but you have to truly listen to your heart. If you find something that you love, it won’t feel like work. Then you’ll dive in three-hundred percent and that will turn into success.”
Read the whole interview below:
Tell me about where you’re from and where you went to school.
I was born and grew up in New Orleans then moved to Mandeville / Covington area in sixth grade. I went to Ole Miss for a year, then transferred to LSU for college.
Okay, you graduate high school… what were you doing afterward? Work or more school or both?
In college, I always worked in restaurants mostly because I could work at night and still have full-time school during the day. I also danced all through college. I was an LSU Golden Girl and an Ole Miss Rebelette. It was the best experience of my life, truly. I just worked as much as I could over the summers during the offseason.
What were you doing right before you made the decision to break from what felt comfortable or easy and start your own business / embark on this current path?
This is an interesting story. I actually graduated college in finance and I set out on a career path of investment management. I wanted to be this big strong female in the finance world which does not exist very often. I worked in that career path for about five years and during that time, we had a huge economic meltdown in 2008. The real estate market fell apart and my job became very stressful at a very young age, I was 23. It taught me a lot about life and it taught me a ton about dealing with hard circumstances and situations. But my firm was struggling and I decided that I needed to step away from that industry, at least for a moment.
I decided to work in pharmaceutical sales for a year as a sort of in-between, during which time I was pregnant with my first daughter. After she was born, I took a year to stay home with her. Through all of this though, I was teaching fitness on the side. I was a Pilates instructor and I would teach before I went to work and I would teach after I went to work. I really didn't mind it because I loved what I did. I love teaching fitness.
I had a friend that I taught Pilates with, her name is Rachel and she's now my business partner. We had very similar mindsets on what we thought the ideal fitness studio would be. And it was much bigger than the studio that we were teaching in in Baton Rouge. After class, we would always chat in the parking lot and say things like, “Wouldn't it be cool if this were there or that was there.” We have very similar mindsets on the fact that it's not just a workout, but so much more. For instance, if people are missing the nutrition component of where they're headed with their goals, they're never going to get there. We wanted to be their one-stop-shop for everything they needed, from a well-rounded workout routine to the nutrition aspect of things. We wanted to help people understand that we are never about a short term anything, we're about a full lifestyle. We wanted to be their partner in getting them to where they want to be and keeping them there.
One afternoon after teaching, I asked Rachel, “Hey do you want to do this? Do you want to just jump into this and open our own [studio]?”. It required her to quit her job and it required me to not pursue another paying job while I was staying home with my daughter. It was terrifying because anyone who has opened a business knows that there is no guarantee of success. There is no guarantee of a paycheck. There's no guarantee of anything. But we knew that we were strong in our convictions and that we should go forward with it… and we did. I think having her as someone to walk that path with was truly integral in both of us diving right in and I'm sure she would say the same thing for me. We were able to develop all of our thoughts and ideas together.
Ultimately, I think what pushed me to go through with it all was being in a career where it did start to feel like work every day. Having a little taste of still teaching fitness and health and being involved in the health world (which I really loved), my mind started to change to, “Wow, what if I could just do this all the time?” and “What if I could help people more?” and “What if I could do this every day and truly change people's lives?”. I think that's part of the driving force that pushed me to say, “It's now or never and it's not gonna be never, so it's now.”
What HEALTH/balance did you need to achieve?
That is something that I’ll be very honest about and something that we had to really check ourselves on because we are not a business that operates under normal business hours. We run a very tight schedule, and when Rachel and I first opened we were the only two instructors on our entire schedule. We taught every class and we also do all of our own marketing, accounting, financials... everything. There were nights that we were up to 11 or 12 o'clock doing the business-work to wake up at four a.m. again to start training the next day.
I think that one of the hardest things we had to do is learn how to delegate, and how important your team is. Also, mental health was huge because we could not keep going mentally as we grew at the pace we were going. Personally, things started to slip through the cracks so we decided to focus on building a more permanent and committed team. We had to be okay with us both not being the ones to do everything.
I would say from a business and personal standpoint, as tough as it sounds, we really learned to set some boundaries with work hours and those types of things. We are such a personal business and our clients are our friends, which is wonderful but can also sometimes be difficult. Most of our clients have our cell phone numbers and at first, it was like business hours never ended. When we first started, my kids began to say things like, “Mom, when are you going to put your phone down?” and, “Mom, you know all you do is text”. That's when I started to remember that my family was just as important as my business. Personal time and delegation were the biggest balances we had to achieve.
What is your personal definition of independence or freedom?
I think waking up and truly owning and loving who you are each and every day - that's personal freedom. Being okay with sharing that love with the world. I think it's almost the same thing in business; it’s finding a career path that you wake up every day excited to do and truly loving to the core because then it doesn't feel like work. You feel free to just dive right in every day.
How does staying healthy grant you freedom? It’s everything. I tell my clients constantly that my goal is to get them to a level in life where they are feeling a way they never knew they could feel. And it's not from being skinny, it's not from losing ten pounds… But it's from a place of waking up every day with the intent of nourishing their bodies to feel their best. Learning their body in a way they never knew and physically using their body every day to make themselves both physically and mentally healthier. When we do that we're better mothers, we’re better spouses, better in our jobs, just better all-around. We can't be the best people we want to be in life unless we focus on ourselves first. We have to be our own top priority to ensure that we're staying healthy, mentally and physically, When that happens, our whole life elevates. I’ve watched it happen with myself and I've experienced it. I've been on the crash diets, I've been on the path of overworking my body with too much fitness, and I’m to a point now where mentally I feel free because I am so comfortable in waking up everyday knowing that I'm eating the way my body needs me to eat. I'm moving my body the way I need to move. When I'm taking personal time for myself, everything else falls into place. I'm just here and I'm living it and I feel like that is what attracts people to [our business]; they see me and my business partner walking in every day and not say “I’m so tired” or “Oh, I need to go run” or “I can't have a French fry” or “Oh I can't have dessert”. Instead, we’re truly happy, living, and feeling free in our lifestyle and that’s where I want everyone to be.
What service(s) or product(s) does your business offer/manufacture?
Apart from classes, we have a superfood smoothie bar in both studios, all of the recipes were and are developed by my business partner and I. They're all organic and dairy-free, and we encourage clients to try one while they're here so we know that at least one meal out of their day is as it should be.
We're also both certified in wellness consulting, so we do individual consults with our clients and we work with them (usually for three to six months at a time) to get them on the path that they need to be. That's not a one size fits all plan, but instead it’s a very personalized path that we take. In this plan, we learn the clients’ issues and help them learn their bodies. It's not just about the food but it's about overall wellbeing.
The personalized plan encompasses stress, sleep, relationships - all of these things that may be blocking them from reaching their wellness goals. You see people here six days a week who still aren't where they want to be, and it's usually that [plan] that is missing for them.
What is your business’ mission/goals?
To promote a lifestyle of health and wellness, and to have our clients receive a personalized experience every time they walk through our doors - from both a fitness and wellness perspective. We call ourselves the Evolve Family, so when you walk through our doors you're joining our family and we want you to feel that. Overall, our mission is connecting with and investing in you from the second you walk through our doors.
What did you need to figure out to make your dream SUSTAINABLE?
We've noticed that small group, very personalized classes that we offer are a much different experience than the classes that are available in the larger facilities. For us, it was truly connecting with every client to make a lasting impression and showing them the difference between a personalized experience and a generic gym experience. Although we don't have all the extra bells and whistles that the big facilities have, we are still where people want to be.
To what do you attribute your success; who is your support system?
My and Rachel’s husbands are our silent cheerleaders. They’re partners in the business but behind the scenes, when we go home and we are sitting on the sofa trying to figure things out, it's really them that are our sounding boards. Both of them are business-minded so they are supportive but also not going to let us fall short of our goals. They hold us to what we've set out to do and they're going to keep pushing us along. I mean I couldn't imagine doing it without them, really.
In what DIRECTION is the company headed?
Expansion mostly. We made a plan to grow our wellness consulting this year, but the Coronavirus put a bit of a wedge in that. We just rolled out a streaming service by necessity surrounding social distancing, but we’ve decided to keep it around. We’re currently developing a better platform for our streams, and that’s a sector of our business we’re going to continue to grow. We’re also always looking at second and third locations in each city. We have requests coming often about other spots opening or people who may be interested in opening another Evolve, but we vet those pretty heavily due to our closeness to our brand. Our goal is not to have a hundred franchises but to have three or four quality facilities.. I would say we’re expanding to different sectors of our business, both wellness and streaming, but also looking to expand our physical locations.
What is the biggest challenge standing between you and that next level?
My and Rachel’s time. We don’t want to be stretching ourselves too thin. It was huge for us to understand that we are such an integral part of those locations. She's in Baton Rouge and I'm here in Mandeville every day, so we see an increase or decrease in the success of the studios when we're here every day or when we're not. We had to understand that if we do expand then it's going to require more of us, but that can be combated with quality staff. We are so picky about who we hire because we want those who work for us to live our brand also.
Our training is thorough and pretty intense because all of our methods are self-developed. We do all of our training in-house, so it may take several months to get somebody up to par. If they're not here long term then it turns into a hamster wheel of training and training and training.
We set out about a year ago to develop a team that was with us for the long haul. We've made efforts to invest more time and energy into our team because in the long run, we know that's what's going to help us grow.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting to seek a greater sense of independence or take control of their own lives, what would it be?
Don't let fear stand in the way. No great thing in life was achieved without fear and the way to combat fear is with knowledge. So educate yourself on what you're trying to do. Know and understand every part of your business. Know and understand where you fall short and what you're not great at, and be okay with it. Don’t be afraid of trying to learn and educate yourself further in areas that would benefit you. I see so many times people that are so good at things but they just won't get past the small bit of fear standing right in front of them. When they do… the reward is so much greater than that fear.
There's something in my finance days that we called the ‘risk-reward profile’, where the higher the risk, the higher the reward. Of course, there's a balance in that but you have to truly listen to your heart. If you find something that you love, then it's not going to feel like work. Then you’ll dive in three-hundred percent and that will turn into success.